Values in times of austerity: A cross-national and cross-generational analysis | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 11, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1751-1917
  • E-ISSN: 1751-1925



It is common knowledge that in times of recession people lose confidence in the government and in other state institutions. Political scientists have pointed out that a loss of faith in a particular government or parliament does not necessarily amount to an erosion of civic culture as the cultural foundation of liberal democracy is broader. However, the recent recession has been unusually severe and long-lasting and some countries have only just started to climb out of it. It is an open question whether civic culture is so resilient that it can even weather exceptionally serious economic crises such as the recent one. As often happens in times of crisis, young people have been most affected by the recent crisis, and one may thus expect this age group to show the steepest drops in civic values. The current article examined the impact of the recession on the civic values of different generations across a selection of European and western states. Analyses of both short and long-term trends based on European Social Survey (ESS) and World Values Survey (WVS) data showed that social trust, tolerance, active civic participation and post-materialism values, as civic culture indicators, are not susceptible to economic downturns, confirming the idea that civic values need to be distinguished from political trust. Correlational analysis provided additional support for this finding as it showed no links between changes in civic culture indicators and changes in economic performance. However, civic dispositions were found to be related to overall levels of economic prosperity and performance, indicating that such dispositions are not wholly immune to material conditions. This led us to surmise that civic culture is more susceptible to enduring processes affecting people’s life chances and well-being than to fleeting phenomena such as economic crises.


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